Friday, 29 March 2013

It's Sunshine Awards Time!


The Sunshine Award is a lovely sunny flower that bloggers give to other “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”.

Thanks so much to
Ally Shields and Jerrie Alexander - the  fabulous bloggers who passed the award to me. 


As with most awards, the Sunshine Award comes with a few simple rules:

(1) Thank the person who gave you the award in your blog post.
(2) Do the Q&A below
(3) Pass on the award to 10-12 deserving and inspiring bloggers, inform them and link to their blogs.



Here are my answers to the questions:

Favourite Colour: Red. It's the colour of my car, my favourite football team and it's a positive, rich colour.



Favourite Animal: Mimi, my 17 year old Tortoiseshell cat. She's affectionate, purrs every time you look at her and, if I'm not feeling well, she'll even delay her meal to make sure I'm OK.
 
Favourite Number: This changes so I can't really say I have one.


Favourite Non-alcoholic Drink: Cranberry juice probably, although the fresh orange juice I had in Israel tops everything

Facebook or Twitter: Twitter, I think, although I'm not wild about either of them.

Your Passion: Writing (no surprises there then!)

 
Giving or getting presents: Giving - as long as I've got it right!

Favourite Day: When my publisher says, 'yes'!

Favourite Flowers: Red roses and carnatians. It's that red thing again! 

 

Finally, these are the 12 fantastic bloggers I'm tagging for this award (Now, I'm off to tell them, so maybe they'll have posts up in a day or two. If not, at least you can look  around some terrific sites!):

Sara Hubbard

Rhonda Laurel 

Barb Han 

Ute Carbone 

Brinda Berry 

J. M. Stewart

Julia Kavan

Susan Roebuck

Sue Swift/Suz deMello

Alyssa Turner

Shehanne Moore 

Jennifer James

Monday, 25 March 2013

Cats With Thumbs...

This week, I've decided to move into a lighter vein (no, don't worry, I'm not talking about sparkly vampires).


You may have seen that I wrote my own obituary for the excellent British horror writer James Herbert and I featured a clip from The Rats. I also mentioned the Cravendale Dairies TV campaign called Cats With Thumbs.

Naturally, being a hopeless, serial cat lover (apologies to Steve Emmett - it's just the way I am!), I ADORE this ad. So for all cat lovers everywhere (and Steve), here it is, courtesy of good old YouTube:



Thursday, 21 March 2013

R.I.P. James Herbert - British Master of Horror



Yesterday evening brought the sad news that one of the greats of British horror writing - James Herbert - had died at the early age of 69.


In common with many on this side of the pond, I became a James Herbert fan bedfore I discovered Stephen King. In fact, it is entirely possible that without being scared witless by The Rats and then The Fog, it may have taken far longer for me to pick up Carrie.

Today, other authors have been paying tribute to him - both personally and professionally. Ian Rankin said on Twitter, "Sad news about James Herbert - as a teen, I scared myself silly reading him. He led me to King, Barker, others. RIP." I think many will identify with that.


For me, James Herbert represented a different kind of horror to that I had previously read. Growing up with Edgar Allen Poe, Dennis Wheatley, M.R. James, and the wonderfully camp Hammer Horror (which, was so safe because it could never happen to you!), Herbert's books were frightening not only because they were more visceral but also because...well, you know...it could just happen...There really could be some previously undiscovered gas released by an earthquake that turned people into homicidal maniacs. And as for rats - they're clever. If they organised themselves like that, they could be a whole lot more terrifying than the Cravendale Cats with Thumbs!


No, if rats organised themselves, perhaps it really could be like this:




That plausibility was one of Herbert's hallmarks (for me at any rate) and also, I believe, one of the key factors that kept his many readers returning, book after book. Like Stephen King, he took horror to another level and set a standard others still strive to achieve.

In all, James Herbert published 23 books in his lifetime. There was a big gap (6 years) between The Secrets of Crickley Hall - recently shown on TV as a mini-series - and Ash, the paperback version of which was only published last week. Sadly, many readers felt this last novel failed to live up to its predecessors.

I believe readers will continue to discover James Herbert for many generations to follow. I also believe that the strength of his storytelling, his creativity, imagination and ability to scare the pants of his readers will continue to inspire writers of the genre for many years to come.

In Faces of Fear, a book comprised of interviews with British and American writers, he is quoted as being "very insecure as a writer. I don't understand why I am so successful. And the longer I stay that way, the better it's going to be, because that's what keeps me on the edge, striving if you like."

In 2010, he was awarded an OBE in the 2010 Queen's Birthday Honours.

RIP James Herbert and thank you for all the scares.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

'Haunted' Portraits

My latest novella, The Second Wife, features a haunted portrait of the first Mrs Marchant - Emily. It frightens the life out of Chrissie, her successor.

When researching some material for guest promotional blogs, I came across a quite extraordinary idea.



Courtesy of http://www.hauntedportraits.com/
Courtesy of http://www.hauntedportraits.com/
It seems you can now buy portraits that metamorphose from perfectly normal attractive photographs or paintings, into something grotesque, skeletal, ghostland/or demonic, right before your eyes..


 They are marketed as being perfect for Halloween - or any time of the year if you live in a haunted house. Apparently there are no mechanical or electrical bits to worry about. You just hang them and then watch what happens...

It's certainly a novel way to redecorate - and maybe a radical gift idea for that horror loving friend who has everything.

I can (kind of) see them on the wall of an old, creaking house but am not at all sure about the concept when applied to a modern three bedroomed semi in leafy suburbia.


Mind you, if you want to be the star of the show, you can always order a customised ghost portrait - featuring yourself:


Courtesy of http://www.hauntedportraits.com/
If that's not daring enough for you, remember the portraits that used to move around in the Harry Potter books and films? Always thought it would be fun to own one?

Try these:

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Win A Copy Of 'Fire Within' - The Latest from Ally Shields




Congratulations to Ally Shields,whose latest urban fantasy - Fire Within - has just been published. 

To celebrate, she's offering you a chance to WIN A COPY of one of her two great books. Here she is to tell us all:



Hi, everyone! I'm so excited to be on Cat's blog for the big reveal of Fire Within, book two in the Guardian Witch urban fantasy series. It was just released this weekend, so I'm eager to tell you about it. 

First of all, I have to confess that I love these characters. If you haven't met Ari, Ryan, Andreas and all the rest, I hope you'll check out the series. And I'm going to make it easy for you! If you leave a comment (and your email so I can notify the winner), you'll automatically be entered in a drawing for your choice of  Awakening the Fire (Book #1) or Fire Within (Book 2)!

Fire Within Book Blurb:

A hidden evil stalks the city...

Fire witch cop Ari Calin refuses to believe her human friend Eddie murdered a vampire—in spite of his confession. When a second vampire dies, Andreas, the sexy, charismatic vampire she dated and split from eight months ago, joins her in the hunt for the real killer.

But Riverdale may have a special kind of serial killer who's looking around for the next vampire victim. The roles of hunter and hunted become murky. And while unterHunAri might feel like killing Andreas at times, she doesn't want anyone else to do it...

Quick Peek Excerpt:

(The morning after the vampire murder, Ari is questioning patrons at the bar near the spot where the victim died, looking for other possible suspects.)

“I must be confused,” said the young man seated next to her. “Why are you asking about other enemies? I thought Eddie confessed.”

“It’s routine. We’re still looking for answers. For instance, the missing gun. If you remember or hear anything that could help us find it, please give me a call.” Ari handed out her business cards.

The young man pocketed the card with a frown. “Still don’t get it. You act like Eddie might be innocent. Why would he admit to the shooting, if he wasn’t guilty?”

Ari raised her eyebrows. “That’s the question, isn’t it?”

Buy links:

ARe 


 Author Bio:

Ally Shields was born and raised in the Midwest, along the Mississippi River, the setting for her urban fantasy series. After  a career in law and juvenile justice, she turned to full-time writing in 2009, and Awakening the Fire, the debut novel in her Guardian Witch series, was released in September 2012.  Ally still lives close to the Mighty Mississippi with her Miniature Pinscher, Ranger. When not writing or reading, she loves to travel in the US and abroad. Way too often she can be found on Twitter.

Contact links:


 Thank you for being my guest today, Ally. I wish you all the best with Fire Within. I know I'll be reading it. I loved Awakening The Fire.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Translating Your Heroes To The Silver Screen

Actually, not just the silver screen, the same dilemmas occur on TV too!

Agatha Christie
 I'm talking about your beloved hero/heroine who makes the quantum leap from Kindle or printed page and lands squarely in front of you, a living, breathing, director's interpretation of someone you have known intimately for years and, frankly, now looks and behaves like a total stranger.

Helen Hayes as Miss Marple
Angela Lansbury as Miss Marple
 Oh, the injustice, the bitter disappointment. The calumny even! How dare they? Why didn't they ask you? You'd have told them straight away that no way would Miss Marple pronounce 'enquiry' as 'inquiry' (Helen Hayes in A Caribbean Mystery), smoke a cigarette (Angela Lansbury in The Mirror Crack'd) or speak with a noticeable American accent (Helen Hayes and Angela Lansbury, to name but two).

Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple
 In the early 1960s, the wonderful Margaret Rutherford had a few outings in some wildly loose adaptations of Christie novels. I loved the films, as long as I forgot she was supposed to be playing Miss Marple. Agatha Christie herself was less than keen, although she too was a fan of the actress


The problem is, we all have our own vision. My Miss Marple is a very English, diminutive elderly lady, dressed in old fashioned sensible clothes (tweed skirts and jackets), who carries a sturdy handbag. She has white hair, tied back in a small bun, frequently dons a hat, and peers over small rimless glasses. She's the sort of woman you wouldn't take any notice of - unless you looked a little closer into those eyes. Then you would see a different person entirely. Sharp as a dagger, quick and unflinching, possessed of a phenomenal and undimmed memory, she scythes through the red herrings and leaves the poor old police inspector ten pages behind...
  
Joan Hickson - the Miss Marple

Imagine then my delight when Joan Hickson (Agatha Christie's own choice), portrayed her in a series of TV adaptations. Now I could settle back, relax and enjoy my Miss Marple solving crimes in precisely the way I knew she always did.
Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple

Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple

Sadly, Joan Hickson passed away in 1998. Miss Marple, however, is immortal. Some of the other fine actresses who have been drafted in to play her include: Geraldine McEwan (can't put my finger on it, but something didn't quite work for me. A friend disagrees wholeheartedly), Julia McKenzie (in my opinion, the closest to Joan Hickson), - and then - er - Carey Mulligan? 
Carey Mulligan. MissWho?
 Let's move on to Dame Agatha's other great detective. The Belgian with the primped and cossetted moustache - Hercule Poirot.
Peter Ustinov as Poirot

The late, great Peter Ustinov played him in Death On The Nile and five other films.His daughter was reportedly shocked when she saw him in rehearsal and exclaimed, "That's not Poirot! He isn't at all like that!", to which her father replied, "He is now!

I agree with his daughter.

Albert Finney as Poirot
Albert Finney, another great British actor, portrayed him in Murder On The Orient Express. I know he was accalaimed for his performance but was he my Poirot? Er - sorry - no. For a start, his hair was all wrong. And the moustache wasn't elaborate enough. And he was too tall. Not a bit like...

David Suchet IS Poirot
Enter my perfect Poirot - David Suchet. From the top of his egg-shaped head, to the tips of his gleaming patent leather shoes, the tiny almost effeminate steps he takes, the perfect buttonhole and the authentic (for the character) accent, could there be any to rival his characterisation? For me, David Suchet simply IS Hercule Poirot.

Olympia Dukakis - Anna Madrigal
Moving onto Armistead Maupin for a moment, I had read and loved all the early Tales of the City books and felt close to the 'family' of quirky characters within their pages. The TV renditions generally worked for me, with some exceptions, but I loved Olympia Dukakis's portrayal of the eccentric, pot smoking landlady, Anna Madrigal. Now when I pick up those early books again (and the latest), I 'see' her whenever that character appears.

Tom Cruise - the 'pretty' Lestat
Entirely the opposite happened when I saw the film adaptation of Anne Rice's classic, Interview With The Vampire. I have yet to see my Lestat, but Tom Cruise certainly isn't it. Too pretty to be sexy enough for me. Now, give me Christian Bale and we could be talking...
Christian Bale - the next Lestat?
 So, tell me, what have been your delights and disappointments? Who would you like to see play your favourite character?

Sunday, 3 March 2013

More Chills From The Second Wife...

 
 
For my Weekend Writing Warriors' Sunday snippet, here's some more from my latest paranormal horror novella - The Second Wife:
  
 
 Suddenly, I felt hot breath on my neck. Thinking that Joe must be back, I spun round—no one there. Could I have imagined it? I stood for a few seconds, my heart pounding. Nothing stirred. 
 
“Joe?” I called. But no one answered. I must have imagined it.
 
To find out more about The Second Wife, please click on this Link
 
The Second Wife is available now from:
 
 
 
You can catch all the other great Weekend Writing Warriors by clicking HERE